Karlo Letica, who has lately become a transfer target for Spanish giants Real Madrid, caught everyone’s attention on Sunday.
With Hajduk Split’s league clash against Istra 1961 heading towards a 2-2 stalemate, in added time, the tall 21-year-old raced up the field for a set-piece and headed in a diagonal ball into the box.
The Croatia under-21 goalkeeper was unsurprisingly mobbed by his team-mates.
Standing at 2.02m, Letica has delivered a string of stellar performances for Split over the last few months and therefore attracted Los Blancos’ interest.
Letica is seen as one for the future at the Bernabeu and Zinedine Zidane’s side could move for the shotstopper in the summer.
21 years old. 2 meters tall. Karlo Letica – Real Madrid’s target.
With that age, that height and this ability to score – I’m on board.pic.twitter.com/SP9lvFnDQs
— RMadridGirl (@RMadridGirl) March 10, 2018
Zinedine Zidane hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as “from another galaxy” after the current Balon d’Or holder continued his case for a record-breaking sixth trophy by leading Real Madrid to a crucial 2-1 win against unlucky Eibar.
The Portuguese powerhouse scored for the seventh game in a row and his brace at Estadio Ipurua yielded three points despite Los Blancos being out of sorts.
And Madrid’s main man drew praise from his coach for his otherworldly attributes. “[Ronaldo] is from another galaxy,” Zidane said after the 2-1 triumph.
“He knows he is going to score, he is unique and special. His stats speak for themselves. He is always very positive and if he gets two, he wants three.”
Fourth-placed Real remain a point clear of Valencia in the La Liga table as they look to guarantee a top-three finish, with Los Che also winning on the road, 2-0 at Sevilla.
And Zidane is determined to remain positive in the quest to catch Barcelona, who are 12 points ahead of Real at the top, with city rivals Atletico four points ahead in second, although they have a game in hand.
“This victory leaves me with a very special taste,” the coach said. “[Eibar] were better, they had a great game. It’s a tough place to go and they played well. We knew that we were going to suffer. We had difficulties but we fought with character and got the win.
“Until the end, the league is possible, and not only for us. If you get distracted, you pay for it, so we must continue. If we want something, we have to win every game.”
Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue again as Real Madrid followed up their thumping win over Paris Saint-Germain with a narrow victory against Eibar.
Ronaldo scored twice, his second six minutes from the end, as Real won 2-1 and avoided another slip-up in La Liga. Ivan Ramis had equalised for Eibar shortly after half-time.
With Barcelona in action against Malaga later on Saturday (11:45pm UAE time) and Atletico Madrid playing host to Celta Vigo on Sunday (7:15pm), Real closed the gap on their city rivals to four points but are still 12 points off Blaugrana.
Here, we assess three talking points as Zinedine Zidane’s men can travel back from the northern tip of Spain happy.
ISCO’S STRUGGLES IN MIDFIELD CONTINUE
Not many players have the technical ability and playmaking wizardry the Spaniard possesses but the 25-year-old can look pretty ordinary when his confidence levels are low. Saturday was another case in point.
Zinedine Zidane withdrew the midfielder after a lethargic 71-minute display in which fellow engine room stars Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, both feeling their way back from injury, outshone him.
Isco wasn’t trusted to start in Tuesday’s Champions League win at the Parc des Princes, and came on with 19 minutes remaining, going some way to showing how much Real’s star of the 2016-17 season has dipped in form.
The former Malaga man’s control was off and he made just 46 touches on the ball and 30 passes, with both being the fewest out of all Madrid midfielders.
A suggestion is that Isco has fallen victim to Zidane’s high-press and energetic tactics away from home, which have seen the midfielder chasing and harrying opponents more than ever, but equally, could it be a case that he’s lacking fitness or is just burnt out?
Isco has completed just 90 minutes five times this season, all of them coming at sporadic intervals in La Liga, while an apparent falling out with captain Sergio Ramos off the pitch has only served to fuel the fire of debate.
THERE’S NO STOPPING CRISTIANO RONALDO
With clashes to come early next month against Atletico Madrid and then the Champions League quarter-final, an argument could have been made to rest the club legend yet again, for the third time in five league matches – preserving his premium match sharpness.
But, then again, Zidane has to be credited for resisting that temptation and continuing to play a man who is just a freak of nature.
Ronaldo’s rich vein of goalscoring form – 13 goals in his last six matches – has been truly staggering and he doesn’t look like missing.
Without him, it’s maybe scary to ponder where this team would be with Gareth Bale (90 minutes) and Karim Benzema (20 minute cameo) proving ineffective, short of sharpness and void of any kind of conviction.
Ronaldo, along with the outstanding Luka Modric in the middle of the park who set up the Portuguese’s first with a gorgeous curling through pass, was the difference against a spirited Eibar side which treated this match as a home cup final.
It’s amazing to think that the 33-year-old was pretty much written off following the 3-0 league reverse against Barcelona back in December last year but now has 33 goals to his name this season – which is one more than Lionel Messi – and only two back on top European goalscorer Harry Kane.
DEFENSIVE FRAILTIES STILL THERE
The early loss of Raphael Varane with a head injury upset Real’s back four but still, seasoned campaigner Nacho came off the bench.
It didn’t matter much – Madrid were fragile and guilty of overplaying in the backline – taking plenty of chances by passing the ball across their own penalty area and back to Keylor Navas in tight areas.
The Whites have won eight out of the past 10 matches in La Liga but shipped goals regularly in that period and looked susceptible to crosses into the box.
PSG’s bundled equaliser in the Champions League in Paris was more proof of that as Zidane’s side failed to deal with a routine centre and the second ball which fell to Edinson Cavani.
On Saturday, Sergio Ramos switched off completely and didn’t enjoy his finest afternoon for the visitors.
The 31-year-old completely lost both the flight of the ball and his man Ivan Ramis from a second-half corner as the veteran defender headed home unmarked.
But for Ronaldo’s clinical instincts in front of goal, that slip-up should have proved costly and Eibar deserved something from a match in which they poured their heart and soul into.
It was another timely reminder that Madrid may not enjoy the same such defensive fortune in the latter stages of the Champions League, with the Basque minnows cutting Real open easily and managing 12 shots on goal throughout.